The Stolen Gift
by David Ssembajjo
UpFront Publishing

"If you have a wound, it is your wound and I would not feel that wound the way you feel it. I hope you get what I mean by that."

In an African village where the sole industry is banana wine, a man named Kagaga develops some idealism. He attempts to teach the virtues of compassion, empathy, and other types of awareness to others.

The book is a metaphor similar to Pandora's Box. Throughout the many tragic incidents of the story, Kagaga's idealism is based on humanitarian and religious beliefs. The idealism is fractured by the repeated bashing of poverty and self-interest. Ultimately, Kagaga is a symbol of the striving of people to understand and live enlightened by more than basic survival, and, similar to many other spiritual leaders, a symbol of the martyrdom of humans' highest ideals.

The Stolen Gift makes many demands on the reader. It is difficult to read about the travails that the villagers experience. It is refreshing when Kagaga assumes the role of teacher; his times of doubt are sad. The reader can admire Kagaga, and look at his breaking points. As the breaks and questions occur to the aspiring spiritual leader, there is a feeling of the inexorableness of the situations that he faces, because he helps to create them. The book could be a study of the challenges in the development of spiritual and political leaders under extreme duress. Ultimately, the message triumphs over the villagers' extreme deprivation.

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